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Review: Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn (Bannerless #1)

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Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn // VBCBannerless (Bannerless Saga #1)
Carrie Vaughn
Published: July 11, 2017 (John Joseph Adams)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Beth

Rating (out of 5): 2 stars

Enid lives in the United States—or what remain of them, decades after civilization fell and was virtually destroyed. A time where girls get birth control implants as soon as they are able to bear children, and no family is allowed to have a child without a banner—a way to signify that they have enough resources to care for the entire household. Blocked arteries can kill, telephones don’t exist, and murder is rare. In this world, Enid is an investigator, similar to a police officer, but yet…not. Households and towns are expected to take care of their own situations first—if they fail, then the investigators come in and take over. This is the world of Bannerless.

First, I had an issue with the overall suggested theme of the book. I completely failed to see where Enid is questioning “…what she’s learned about the foundation of her population-controlled society.” This is a murder mystery and a coming-of-age novel, plain and simple. Yes, it takes place in a time when humans have destroyed much of what we now know. Yes, there are groups that cut out their implants and live on the outskirts of society. But nothing in the story suggests that Enid is questioning the ethics of these decisions or the effects they may have.

The setting is interesting—Vaughn does a good job weaving in parts of the old and the new to make a functional society. What was given up when society crashed, and what some insisted on saving. The characters were…okay. None of them truly grabbed me to where I felt invested in any outcome related to them. The story goes back and forth between when Enid was younger and her investigation in the current time—and even the characters who appeared in both failed to sway me as a reader.

The murder mystery was not much of a mystery. I could see what was happening a mile away—which, honestly, is unusual for me. It also had very little momentum—there was never a time when I could feel my heart race or was anxious over the outcome. It’s a bit of a slow, plodding book—and it’s that way right off the bat.

Honestly, it feels like Vaughn let an opportunity slide right by. There was so much that was interesting in the premise, that could have really been a fascinating take on what it means to live in such a society as Enid’s—the ethics, the choices society today may come to—but it seems like Vaughn soft-pedaled it by using the mystery-that-wasn’t-a-mystery to deliver her take. It appears that this is the first in a series, and I can unequivocally state that #2 will not make my reading list. Bannerless could have been a banner for our current world events and the possible outcomes. Instead, it flies a generic flag and watches as it sags in the wind.

Sexual content: none

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